Aung Khin Myint, a radiologist by training and practice, is known for his art and literary criticism, regularly published in Myanmar magazines since 2000. His critical books in Burmese, From Melancholic Clouds to Post-modernism and Approach to Contemporary Myanmar Poetry caused a stir in Myanmar arts circles when they came out in 2005 and 2006, respectively.
In the meantime, the radiologist was honing his own style of poetics, almost clinically. He calls it ‘New Imagism’, where blood and gore, death and deprivation, and folly and fantasy - the grim symptoms of transitional Myanmar as well as of the world at large, take centre stage. Given his style and subject, it is unlikely that his poems would have been published had not the censorship in Myanmar been eased since 2010. His 2015 debut poetry collection, National Anthem - a chapbook of a series of 50 poems, numbered from 1 to 50 - went on to win the Union of Burmese Poets’ Prize for that year.
"The darkest of (Francisco) Goya's paintings is 'Saturn devouring his son'. I write this (poem,'National Anthem') with the 'poetics of horror' I find there. In fact a devil spirit inside my head was dictating the poems to me every night. All I did was write them down", the poet says. Aung Khin Myint's national anthems are about a nation devouring its own denizens, and therefore about a nation consuming itself. NATIONAL ANTHEM 38 is prescient about the fate of Burmese domestic workers, forseeing the death of one who indeed plunged to her death from the high floor of a condominium in Singapore in June 2017, in what could justifiably be called the work of the devil.
Aung Khin Myint has been inevitably compared with William Carlos Williams, a comparison about which the Burmese poet has said, "I am not a dedicated imagist like Williams but I have to look at images all the time. In my practice (as a radiologist), I have to interpret the images very carefully. If I misinterpret the images, I fail. But in poetry, I sometimes win if I misinterpret."
National Anthem was followed by Lilies (2016), another series of fifty poems numbered from 'Lily 1' to 'Lily 50', and the full-length collection Mykrowafe (2017). After this last book we see Aung Khin Myint turning to what he calls "fake story telling", writing prose poems that are thick with his signature morbid imagery and irony. Three of his prosepoems, THE SNAG WAGON SCREECHES, YANGON and I DREAMT OF MAO ZEDONG and the National Anthem poems are published for the first time in English translation here on Poetry International.
Naingantaw Thichin/National Anthem, Yangon, Fifteenth Century First Press, 2015
Lilly Pan Myar/Lilies, Yangon, Fifteenth Century First, 2016
Mykrowafe/Microwave, Yangon, The Eras, 2017
Trojanmyin ye athar/Trojan Horsemeat, Yangon, Eras, 2018